Originally published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, November 7, 2015
The word apologetics may look like the word apology, but apologists are neither sorry nor have they done anything wrong. A Christian apologist is prepared to defend the Gospel and explain why we believe the things we believe. Responding to questions and criticism is something we all need to be ready to do if called upon.
There are different spiritual gifts and many different roles for people to play in the church. You don’t have to be a preacher or Sunday school teacher in order to share the Gospel. At some level every Christian believer does the work of an evangelist, but it may look more like two friends having coffee at the kitchen table than Billy Graham preaching to a packed out stadium. I’m not talking about knocking on doors or approaching strangers on the sidewalk (nor am I saying that certain people shouldn’t do that). I’m talking about people that have built relationships in their circle of influence being able to talk to friends, family members, coworkers or classmates about what they believe. Apologetics is about offering explanation and answering questions, not about winning a debate.
The fact is, and I’m not trying to step on any toes, some Christians don’t know what they believe. For others it would be hard to put into words. It would be sad if a friend visited their church and asked why certain things were said or done and a church member had no idea. “Because we’ve always done it that way” is never an acceptable answer, even though you may sometimes get that from church leaders. Let me suggest this: never take the preacher’s word for it. I’m not telling you to argue with him, but even the things I say in the pulpit need to have a scriptural basis. A new believer may be a blank slate but there is no excuse for staying that way. Read the Bible, join a Sunday school class or small group, read a devotional on your own time and develop a foundation on which to build.
Peter wrote about infants that crave spiritual milk so they could grow strong in the faith; meanwhile Paul lamented the fact that the Corinthian Church was stuck on spiritual milk when they should have been eating meat. We are meant to grow in faith and knowledge. It’s for our own good so that we can discern right and wrong and be conformed to the image of Christ. But the next step is to be able to help another. We called to build one another up and to share one another’s burdens. Paul was not some superhero evangelist or first century megachurch pastor. He was constantly training pastor and church leaders to do the work in their local congregations. We not only have letters he wrote to churches but also to individuals such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon. The Book of Acts is a narrative account of early church history. First and Second Timothy are more like operator manuals for how a New Testament church is to function.
Every one of us is at a different point along the journey. I need to be learning from those with more age and experience than I have and at the same time training and equipping future church leaders to someday take my place. That is the New Testament model of leadership. During the earthly ministry of Jesus the disciples were often a fine mess. Sometimes he worried out loud about their lack of faith and understanding. But they not only witnessed Jesus heal the sick and cast out demons, they went out and did the same; not perfectly but they were a work in progress. Peter later preached on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 souls were saved. The Christian church began in Jerusalem that day and spread quickly throughout the known world. Pretty impressive for an odd group of fisherman, tax collectors and whatever that had no theological training and ate without washing their hands.
Christian growth is to be expected from all Christians. Part of that process is to share our story with others. Any believer should be able to share with another person, even if it’s one on one, what God has done in his or her life. We should also be able to provide a defense of our faith. If you don’t know what you believe and why you believe it that could be a problem. But it’s never too late to figure it out.